TechTool Pro 4

by John Nouveaux

After a long-anticipated wait, Micromat Incorporated has finally released TechTool Pro 4 for Mac OS X. This utility performs a variety of tasks from defragmenting disks to running various diagnostic tests on several compo-nents of your system—from performing pro-active disk protection to recover from disk crashes to alert notifications via e-mail when something goes amiss.

The user interface is clean and nicely laid out. All TechTool’s ma-jor functions (test Suites, individual Tests, Performance, Tools, and Safety) are easily accessed across the top of TechTool’s main window.

Within each category, individual functions appear below. Each function comes with additional help via a help drawer if you need it.

In addition TechTool comes with an extensive and well-written user manual which not only describes the tool in great detail, but also describes various Macintosh and computer system components in more detail than most people might want. If you’ve always wondered what L1 Cache is or how the Macintosh lays out its files or what 1.33GHz means with respect to CPU speeds - it’s all there.

A brief walk through TechTool’s major functions:

Test Suites: Three basic test suites (Basic, Intermediate, Ad-vanced) run a progressively more intense battery of system tests. These tests check various system components such as memory, firewire, CPU, network interfaces, disk drives, data integrity via the Macintosh file system structures, and even certain individual file structures.

With a single click of the mouse you can run whichever of these test suites suits your particular need at the time. Each suite is well documented in the user manual as to what specifically is tested.

Individual Tests: You can enable or disable any or all individual tests and run whichever tests you need to run. Using individual tests gives you much finer control over what test run compared with the hard-wired tests in the test suites.

Performance: Directory maintenance and disk defragmentation functions appear here. In order to perform these optimizations on your startup volume you need to either boot from the Micromat supplied Mac OS X (10.3) CD or boot from an eDrive (see below).

Tools: The tools category has several unrelated functions. Perhaps the coolest of them all is the eDrive. By setting up an eDrive, you can create on an existing disk, without having to repartition it, a virtual and bootable emergency disk which includes the TechTool Pro 4 utility.
This provides a neat way to fix broken systems without having to find the Micromat CD and may even save your bacon when you’re on the road with your laptop. Setting up an eDrive consumes about 4GB of your disk space and is easily done via a couple of mouse clicks.
The Tools category also has an audio and monitor test which are used to calibrate your speaker and check for dead pixels on flat screen monitors respectively.

In addition you can enable or disable volume journaling; wipe individual files, directories or an entire drive (wiping data ensures the data is lost forever); and perform data recovery if you have set up your drive to protect its directory structures.

Safety: The final category allows you to setup a feature called Protection. With Protection enabled TechTool saves certain di-rectory information on your drive or to another drive or drives if you’d like. If your drive crashes, this information may be useful in recovering your lost data.
You can also setup automatic diagnostic and SMART disk predictive failure tests. If anything starts to go wrong or your system experiences problems TechTool will inform you automatically as you have specified via the Alerts Setup function.

Some functions, like disk defragmentation of your boot drive, can only be run when booted from Micromat’s CD or from an eDrive while other functions, like pro-active disk protection, require TechTool to be installed on your hard drive.

Booting from the Micromat CD takes a good 10-15 minutes on my G4 1.33GHz 17” PowerBook while disk defragmentation took over three hours the first time I ran it on my two-month old disk. You should also be aware running the full suite of tests can take some time. Other than this, TechTool Pro 4 ran solidly, did its job well and was easy to use.

Company: Micromat, Inc.,
Product: TechTool Pro 4.0.1
Price: $US 97.98